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Reading is Sexy

2010 October 18

When we think of Marilyn Monroe, the words “blond bombshell” usually come to mind. She is remembered as the sexy siren who serenaded JFK and cooed “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” Her tragic, mysterious death has cemented her a place as a Hollywood legend, her story still holding the world in thrall decades later.

Fragments, a new book published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, is a collection of excerpted personal writings that Marilyn left her acting coach, Lee Strasberg, after she died. Not only do the fragments document her pain, they also challenge our stereotypes of her, showing her strength as a writer and a reader.

There are many photos in existence that show Marilyn reading. While the public perhaps thought of these photos as cute and funny (“Oh, look how silly! She’s trying to read Walt Whitman! Everyone knows beautiful women aren’t smart.”), they were actually depicting the actress more honestly than the countless photos of her in more risque poses and racy outfits. Truth is, she was a voracious reader, building a personal library of over 400 volumes by the time of her passing, and as this book shows, she was a skilled writer as well.

Why is this such a revelation? In the 1950s, yes, perhaps it was rather unconventional for a woman, especially a woman so beautiful and unapologetically sultry, to flaunt her intelligence. But in the year 2010, why are we still so surprised to learn that attractive and sexy women can be smart too? Or that intelligent, successful women can also be beautiful? Does anyone else feel like we’re still living with Mad Men era expectations and stereotypes of women sometimes?

*Images via The Marilyn Factor

4 Responses Post a comment
  1. October 18, 2010

    Marilyn Monroe reading – I couldn’t think of a more perfect topic for this blog. :) Very interesting stuff. I love, love, love these photos.

  2. Joe permalink
    October 18, 2010

    I’m not sure we’re surprised to learn that she was a voracious reader. I think some marketing people want us to think we’re surprised to learn that. I guess I reject the idea that just because someone publishes a book acting like something is surprising, its audience is instantly guilty of holding that same view. What is a more modern example of us being surprised a beautiful woman is a reader? GIven the popularity of Hot Guys Reading Books (, I would suggest that we have a much wider problem, where reading & learning are not considered sexy activities. As a culture we need to reassign to those pursuits the celebrity they once held.

  3. Amanda permalink
    October 18, 2010

    I share neck and bust measurements with MM.

  4. October 24, 2010

    I love Marilyn so much. I’ll be sure to pick up Fragments as soon as my library gets it in (or maybe I’ll have to splurge on Amazon). Thanks so much for the post and gorgeous photos!

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